Esther Rome, a founder of the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective and a key writer and editor of Our Bodies, Ourselves, died of breast cancer at age 49 on this date in 1995. The book, first published in 1971, was an inspiration and organizing tool for the feminist movement and gave impetus to sex-positive politics and sex education, women’s consciousness-raising groups, reproductive health activism, medical consumer advocacy, various forms of “body work” and “alternative healing” methods, and the politicization of such medical/psychological issues as cosmetic surgery, obesity, eating disorders, women’s body image, and sexually transmitted diseases. The book in its various editions has sold more than four million copies (and been roundly denounced by the religious right). Esther Rome served in the 1990s as a consumer advocate to the Food and Drug Administration Committee that investigated and recommended restricted use of silicone breast implants; she was also a key instigator of research into toxic shock syndrome and its possible linkage to tampon use.
“We can topple hierarchies by starting with our bodies.” —Gloria Steinem